Tuesday, July 15, 2014

teachable moments

If you have a pre-teen or teenager in your life, or think that one day you might, you probably need to read this book or one like it. Teachable Moments: Using Everyday Encounters with Media and Culture to Instill Conscience, Character, and Faith. (Marybeth Hicks, Howard Books, 2014) is a compendium of ‘moments’ drawn from family, media, friendship, school sports, the real world, and moments that matter. And the moments are discussed in the context of someone with a strong faith background.
      Some of Hicks’ suggested answers are common sense, some seem a little too pat, and a few are ones that I would have liked to have had read about several years ago. Hicks is the mother of four children, and so she has some experience in dealing with the things that pop up in the lives of our children, things that we would like to be able to protect them from, but unfortunately, we can’t.
         An expression that she uses throughout the book, and which made perfect sense to me is “we’re preparing the child for the path, not the path for the child.” Try as we might, there is no way we can foresee all the pitfalls that our children will encounter: we can’t prepare the path. What we can try to do is instill values and morals that will help our children to make wise decisions. Consistently throughout the book Hicks is careful to point out the importance of integrity and character.
       In our politically correct world, everyone seems to have a voice, and the right to make it heard, except someone who espouses traditional Christian values. This is becoming more and more prevalent in schools where in the name of preventing bullying, the pendulum seems to have swung a little too far, to the point where teachers are required to put a positive spin on things that many consider sinful. Hicks offers suggestions on how to deal with these conflicting messages in a way that reinforces your own values and explaining how others deserve to be treated with dignity and respect even when you disagree with their stance on a particular issue.
       I was interested in reviewing this book because I have a teenage son, and expected to find it very useful. My mistake was thinking that one size might fit all, which is obviously not the case.  Although there is a lot of good material here which many people will find useful, I imagine that supporters of some of the issues that Hicks considered to be ‘teachable moments” will attack her as being a hater, not being open-minded, or being one of those judgmental Christians.
       I did not find this book as helpful as I had hoped, but younger parents and those with preteens, and younger teens in the house may glean more helpful hints than I did.
         I received a pre-release copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

too complicated - a review of SIMPLIFY

     Simplify. Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul, by Bill Hybels (Tyndale Momentum, 2014) is too complicated to have a title like Simplify.  This seems to be a case of the cure is worse than the disease. Too many chapters with too many subheadings, followed by action steps which in themselves require you to clutter.

     I’m torn as I write this: much of the information that Hybels presents is logical and sound advice. He addresses the issues that frustrate so many of us, but in offering so much advice and so many options, he defeats his purpose for writing the book: to offer a simple way to simplify. Even tackling one of the 10 issues he addresses would require a massive effort for someone who is already feeling like they are sinking. And there are ten areas of our lives where Hybels suggests we can or should change.
    There is a lot of good stuff in this book, His “Five Beliefs of Financial Reconciliation” are worthy of a book by themselves.

     But I just couldn't get past the place where I was feeling that when I’m ‘depleted’ that I wouldn't have the energy to even begin some of the steps that Hybels recommends as a part of the replenishing process. And when things are going well, that is, the sense of depletion isn't weighing me down with every step, then it probably isn't going to seem feasible or necessary to jump through the hoops.

     I liked the idea of having a ‘life verse’ and thought it was a good idea to include some possible, along with some tips on how to pick one for yourself. There were a few references to his verse throughout the book, but not enough to warrant the beginning of Appendix A: “I hope by now I have convinced you…”

     Although much of the information in this book could be useful for a particular circumstance, overall I was disappointed with the book.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. I was no required to write a positive review and the opinions expressed are my own.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Repent, Awake, and never go back!

    Sometimes, usually, things are much easier than we make them out to be. As human beings we tend to want to complicate things, and then when they've gotten out of control, we decide that we can fix them. The problem is that we can't. As least we can't, by ourselves, solve all the problems that we create.

       America, and much of the world, may have bought into the idea that self-help fixes everything, but as Dr Cloud points out, there are generally 2 other components to any self-help program: 1) other people and 2) God. In Never Go Back: 10 Things You'll Never Do Again ( Howard Books, 2014), We learn that there are consequences to every decision, and even though we can't eliminate those consequences, any more than we can always quickly fix the problem, there are ways to avoid them in the first place.

       Human beings are creatures of habit: we tend to do the same things over and over. Cloud points out that if we become aware of some of the patterns that we've fallen into, patterns that lead to less than desirable circumstances, that we can learn to avoid them, decide to avoid them.

      He describes 10 things that most people do on a regular basis, simple things with unintended consequences. Many people do things like repeat things that didn't work before, try to please everybody, try to change other people, or just neglect to ask 'how did I get here in the first place?' He uses real life examples of how lives are affected because of these negative habits.

       If he had stopped the first 10 chapters, this would have been an acceptable book. In PART ONE, Cloud describes some of the attitudes we need to repent of, and then in PART TWO he offers some practical advice on how to come to some sort of awakening and change for the better.

     We all know that change doesn't come easy, if it were all that simple, then there would be no need for this book. Some people will benefit immensely from Never Go Back,  and others will at least see that there is a solution.

      The book is easy to read, not filled with psycho-babble, and Dr Cloud does an excellent job of giving God credit for the work in human lives that only God can do.

      I received a copy of this book from ICON Media Group in exchange for this review. The opinions are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.


Monday, July 7, 2014

learning to trust completely in God

Every once in a while someone writes a book that defies logic, contradicts everything you thought you knew, and, as it forces you to color outside the lines and think outside the box about faith in general and your faith in particular, makes perfect sense. I had doubts about reviewing Kevin Adams’ The Extravagant Fool, (Zondervan, 2104) – I was hoping for readable, expecting too much schmaltz, and pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable a read that this book provides.
Adams had it all, and then he lost everything, but in the process he found something much more valuable: the ability to learn to trust God. He found the faith that helped him learn to rely on God. Lots of people say they have faith, and far be it from me to challenge their claims; but throughout this book I was impressed again and again by the difference between saying you have faith, and putting that faith in action.  This is a faith that risks.
Lots of people have a personal story about God showing up in their time of need and they lived happily ever after. Adams takes it a step further as he describes the journey from the point where God showed up, several times actually, to the point of being able to walk completely by faith.
Read carefully, or you’ll miss some of the nuggets that often appear out of nowhere. Or maybe that’s just God's way of telling me I need to learn to rely on Him more and more.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for a review.